Home > Lai Kok Fung > SOCIAL NETWORKING – CELL PHONES, COMPUTERS OR BOTH?

SOCIAL NETWORKING – CELL PHONES, COMPUTERS OR BOTH?

By Lai Kok Fung, BuzzCity CEO

red_and_white The time between the western and lunar new years is a good period for reflection and at BuzzCity, we’ve decided to take a fresh look at how we communicate with people interested in mobile communities, like the ones being created everyday on myGamma. We strive to not only create the world’s best platform for mobile-generated user content, we also want to be thought leaders – taking a look at trends both within the industry and inside our own business. So starting today, we promise to update this blog regularly (we did a poor job of that in the past). Look for a new entry once a fortnight. Sometimes I’ll be the primary author; other members of our executive team – like Hisham and Yuszela– will also contribute. In every case, though, the entries will reflect collaboration. Not every word written will be mine – or Hisham’s or Yuszela’s for that matter – our communications team will play a role putting our conversations into print.
Now on to business . . .

There’s a growing trend in the social networking space. Companies with a solid internet foundation are expanding into the mobile sphere. Just this week, MySpace announced a deal with Vodafone that will enable cellular customers to access and update their MySpace pages from mobile phones.

Talking about the tie-up, John Smelzer of MySpace parent company Fox Interactive Media said “Our goal is to empower our audience to connect and interact with our sites whenever and wherever they choose.”

Colin Digiaro, a MySpace executive adds “millions of people use MySpace as their primary means of communicating with family and friends, so it’s vital we make this available on the move.”

I’m not going to predict the success or failure of this particular joint venture, but I do believe that the logic behind Mr. Smelzer’ and Mr. Digiaro’s comments is misguided. People who use mobile phones for social networking are not the same people who use the internet for social networking. Let me say that again: people who set up pages on sites like MySpace are generally a distinctly different group of people than those who use mobile social networking services like myGamma.

In some countries, this is because of infrastructure: computers and broadband access are expensive. Mobile phones are relatively cheap. And mobile networks are growing exponentially, linking huge numbers of people in countries like China, India and South Africa like never before.

Even in places like the US and UK with good broadband penetration, we find that the people who prefer mobile networking are individuals who don’t use computers a lot. Maybe they don’t like to spend their time in front of a computer screen or perhaps they work on their feet or are always on the move.

At BuzzCity, we made the same mistake in the beginning. We thought of the phone as an extension of the computer for social networking. However, after being spoilt with a big screen and computer graphics, we realized that most people don’t want to use phones to write blogs or update their Friendster pages.

While tie-ups between businesses like Vodafone and MySpace will encourage cross-over, I still think segmentation will be the real story. More than 1.5 million people now use myGamma, including tea merchants from Assam, stuntmen from Hydrabadi film studios and rural Thai farmers. The pattern is repeated across countries where market stall holders, property agents and waitresses are creating moblogs, placing classified ads to buy and sell goods, downloading games, looking for work and communicating via email for the first time.

With the lunar new year less than two weeks away, I found myself scanning the Chinese horoscopes. For people born in the Year of the Pig, this is supposed to be a year of mobility. For a company like ours – that connects people on the move – that sounds like good news!

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Lai Kok Fung

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